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What to Expect From a HIV Testing Kit

Posted Friday 04 September 2020 11:00 by in Express Pharmacy by Harman Bhamra

HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is the main culprit behind AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. This virus is designed to attack your immune system --- compromising your body’s ability to fight against infections, viruses, and illnesses. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about HIV, including what to expect from a HIV testing kit.

HIV: A Quick Overview

HIV has three stages. Let's discuss them briefly below:

Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection

This is the initial stage of the infection. If you are infected, you may begin to notice flu-like symptoms within the first four weeks. These symptoms can last for several days to weeks. During this stage, you are very contagious but may not feel very sick.

Stage 2: Dormant Stage

During this stage, the virus becomes dormant and replicates very slowly in your body. The dormancy stage is usually not associated with any symptoms. This could last for decades or even longer especially if you are taking HIV treatment.

Stage 3: AIDS

The most severe stage of the infection. By this time, your immune system is already compromised and you are most likely to develop opportunistic diseases like:

  • Cancer
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Lymphoma

Most deaths occur as a result of several complications caused by these illnesses, not by the virus itself. Life expectancy for people with AIDS is less than five years.

Get Tested Early

Since its discovery, scientists are yet to find a cure for HIV. Early detection is key to enjoying a comfortable and productive life down the road. There are several HIV treatments available but they are most effective when the virus is still at its early stages.

Get tested if:

  • You had unprotected sex with someone who may have HIV.
  • You are sharing needles (tattoos, drugs, piercings, etc).
  • You want peace of mind.

Using A HIV Testing Kit at Home

HIV self-testing is the most convenient and discreet way to test for HIV. The BioSure HIV Self Testing Kit is the first of its kind in the UK to receive a CE approval. This means that the test kit is strictly regulated and scrutinised to meet the highest quality standards.

The BioSure HIV Self Testing Kit is very easy to use. Using a technology very similar to a pregnancy test, this HIV testing kit requires a very small amount of blood (less than a drop). You will know your result after 15 minutes.

Using the BioSure HIV Self Testing Kit

Here is a quick guide for HIV testing at home. Using the BioSure HIV Self Testing Kit can be summarised into five simple steps: prepare, prick, suck, poke, and read.

Step 1. Prepare

Prepare the testing kit by removing the buffer pot from the end of the device. Place it in the hole in the tray.

Step 2. Prick

Remove the cover of the safety lancet and place the red pad on your finger. Push until you hear a click. The lancet will make a small cut on your skin. You can squeeze your finger to make the drop of blood bigger.

Step 3. Suck

Touch the tip of the BioSure HIV Self Testing Kit onto the blood. It’ll automatically suck the blood in until you have enough for the test.

Step 4. Poke

Push the tip of your testing device through the foil in the buffer pot. Push hard until you can’t push any further. Wait for 15 minutes.

Step 5. Read

Once the 15-minute waiting period is up, you can now read your results. One (1) line means negative, two lines mean positive, and no lines mean the test did not work.

If you have a positive result, consult with your GP. They will confirm your result and will help you take the next steps.

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5 Simple Ways to Reduce Period Pain

Posted Wednesday 02 September 2020 15:14 by in Period Pain Medication by Harman Bhamra

Most women experience period pain at some point in their lives. It is common and a normal part of the menstruation cycle. Usually characterised by painful muscle cramps in the abdomen, period pain can also spread to your thighs and back.

Period pain can vary between dull and constant cramps to intense spasms. Your experience may also vary with each period. There will be periods where the pain is bearable or even non-existent, while other months may be very painful.

Here’s an article to help you learn more about the symptoms of period pain.

What are the Causes of Period Pain?

Normally, period pain is caused by the contraction (tightening) of the muscles surrounding your womb. Mild contractions of the uterine wall occur every day but they are so mild you won’t even notice them. However, during your period, this contraction becomes more vigorous to help your womb shed its lining.

When your uterine wall contracts, it compresses the blood vessels in your womb --- cutting off blood and oxygen supply. This causes the tissues in your womb to release chemicals that trigger pain. These chemicals also cause your body to produce prostaglandins which stimulate the uterine wall to compress even further --- increasing the pain levels you perceive.

Until now, doctors are not sure why some women experience more painful period pains than others. They suspect that the build-up of prostaglandins in the body is the culprit.

Some medical conditions can also cause period pains. But these tend to affect women between 30 to 45 years old. Some of these medical conditions are:

Fibroids - benign tumours that grow in and around the uterus.

Endometriosis - a case where cells which line the uterus grow in other areas like your ovaries and fallopian tubes. When they shed, these abnormal cell growth can cause intense pain.

Adenomyosis - a condition where the tissues lining the uterus starts to grow within the muscular womb wall.

Pelvic inflammatory disease - an inflammation in the ovaries, womb, and fallopian tubes caused by bacteria.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) - usually begins a couple of days before your period. The pain continues into the first two days of your menstruation. 90% of women experience PMS at some point in their lives. According to doctors, PMS may be caused by the dipping of estrogen and progesterone levels at the beginning of your menstruation.

How Long Do Period Pains Last?

Most period pains start when you menstruate. However, some women also experience period pain even weeks before their bleeding begins. Usually, period pains last between two to three days. The pain is at its worst when your bleeding is at its peak. Some period pains can last longer.

Surprisingly, many women experience lesser period pains after they’ve had children.

How to Reduce Period Pains

Below are five simple ways on how to reduce period pains at home:

1. Keep yourself hydrated

Bloating is one of the common symptoms of menstrual cramps. And bloating can make the pain you feel worse. Drinking plenty of liquids can help ease bloating. Make it a habit to drink between six to eight glasses of water every day. You can add some lemon or mint to improve the taste.

There are many ways to hydrate if you are not loving plain water. Try a glass of fruit-infused water or a cup of ginger or chamomile tea. You can also prepare a pitcher of water with lemon and cucumber for the day. Sipping a cup of broth (low sodium) is also a great way to relax and rehydrate. You can also buy flavoured mineral water.

While you are hydrating, cut your alcohol and sodium intake as they promote dehydration and bloating.

2. Get some sunshine

Vitamin D helps reduce the production of prostaglandins in the body. Period pains can be disabling so if you don’t feel like going outside for some sunshine, take some vitamin D supplements. Studies show that high weekly doses of vitamin D can significantly lower the pain of menstrual cramps.

3. Avoid caffeine

Many women report that eliminating caffeine has helped reduce their period pains. Caffeine comes in many forms --- most of it are your favourites (i.e. chocolate, soda, tea, energy drinks, coffee, etc.). If you consume lots of caffeinated products every day, break the habit slowly so you don’t succumb to withdrawal symptoms.

A great substitute for caffeine is smoothies and shakes with protein powder, greens, and berries which are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients.

4. Massage and apply heat

Massages promote blood flow. So, massaging your abdomen for at least five minutes every day can help reduce period pains. Use massage creams with essential oils like marjoram and lavender to take advantage of their amazing benefits --- including soothing the pain caused by menstrual cramps.

While you are at it, consider applying a heating pad to your abdomen too. Heat can help the muscles relax. No heating pad? Just grab a hot water bottle or a warm towel!

5. Take Mefenamic Acid

Mefenamic acid is a popular period pain treatment. This medicine works by reducing inflammation in your uterine wall thus providing relief from pain. Mefenamic acid is an effective pain reliever that belongs to a family of medicines called NSAIDs or non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs.

Mefenamic acid is taken three times a day for a maximum of three days during your period. Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol while you are taking this medication. You can buy period pain tablets from Express Pharmacy today.

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Sumatriptan vs Zolmitriptan: How to Choose the Right Migraine Treatment

Posted Tuesday 01 September 2020 15:00 by in Migraines by Harman Bhamra

Migraines can be such a nuisance to deal with. Without the proper treatment available, these ‘severe headaches’ can put you out of action for days… or even weeks. Fortunately, there are now lots of migraine relief drugs available like Sumatriptan and Zolmitriptan.

This guide will compare migraine treatments Sumatriptan and Zolmitriptan, helping you to establish which is best for you.

What are triptans?

Sumatriptan and Zolmitriptan belong to a family of drugs called Triptans. These tryptamine-based drugs are often used in the treatment of cluster headaches and migraines.

Originally introduced in the 1990s, Triptans are classified as preventive medicines --- meaning they help relieve your migraine symptoms --- but are not designed to cure them. It’s important to note that Triptans don’t relieve other kinds of pain.

Let’s take a look at Sumatriptan and Zolmitriptan in greater detail below:


Sumatriptan is a fast-acting medication for the relief of migraine symptoms. This treatment is comparable to the branded Imigran and contains the same active ingredient called Sumatriptan Succinate.

How Sumatriptan works

Sumatriptan is not a painkiller. This medication is designed to help reverse the widening of blood vessels in the brain which are considered by doctors as one of the primary causes of a migraine.

The active ingredient in Sumatriptan stimulates the brain’s serotonin receptors causing the blood vessels in the brain to contract and return to their original size.

How to use Sumatriptan

Sumatriptan is formulated for adults 18 years old and above who are suffering from migraines. This medication can be taken with or without food. The maximum allowed dose for Sumatriptan is 300mg. This is equivalent to 3 100mg tablets or 6 50mg tablets a day.

Take Sumatriptan the moment you notice your migraine symptoms flaring up. Remember, this tablet is not a preventive medicine so it’s not advisable to take it before your symptoms start. Sumatriptan will not stop your migraine - it will only relieve you of its symptoms so you can carry on your day.

If the first dose is effective but your symptoms return later in the day, take a second dose. Make sure there is at least a 2-hour gap between each dose.

Don’t take a second dose if the first tablet is not effective. Instead, contact your GP to discuss alternative medications.

What are the side effects of Sumatriptan?

The side effects of Sumatriptan vary from one person to another. Some of the common side effects of this drug include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Short term increase in blood pressure

You can buy Sumatriptan online from Express Pharmacy.


Another popular migraine treatment is Zolmitriptan. This drug also contains the active ingredient Sumatriptan Succinate.

How Zolmitriptan works

Zolmitriptan works by stimulating a group of receptors in the brain called serotonin receptors (also known as 5HT receptors). This stimulation causes the swelling/dilating blood vessels in the brain to contract --- relieving you of the immense pressure felt during a migraine.

Aside from its tablet form, you can also get Zolmitriptan as an orodispersible and as a nasal spray. This variety of choice makes Zolmitriptan more appealing to those who have a difficult time digesting tablets.

How to use Zolmitriptan

Like Sumatriptan, Zolmitriptan is also not a preventive medication. This means that this treatment will not stop your migraine from occurring. Take Zolmitriptan as soon as your symptoms occur, but not before.

You can take Zolmitriptan with or without food. The maximum dosage of Zolmitriptan is 10mg a day. This means that you can take up to 4 weaker doses (2.5mg) or 2 stronger doses (5mg) of Zolmitriptan each day.

Take the first dose the moment your migraine symptoms flare-up. If your symptoms return later on in the day, take another dose. Make sure that there’s a two-hour window between each dose.

If the first dose is not effective, don’t take a second tablet. Instead, talk to your GP for a different form of medication.

We recommend starting with the lower strength Zolmitriptan initially. If this is not enough, you may double your dose. For best results, consult with your GP.

What are the side effects of Zolmitriptan?

Side effects of Zolmitriptan are rare but may include:

  • Flushing
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Transient increase in blood pressure

You can also buy Zolmitriptan from Express Pharmacy today.

Which is better: Sumatriptan or Zolmitriptan?

Both migraine treatments are incredibly effective at relieving symptoms. While studies show that Sumatriptan works at a quicker pace, many people opt for Zolmitriptan due to there being fewer side effects.

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4 Proven Ways to Stop Hair Loss

Posted Friday 28 August 2020 11:00 by in Hair Loss by Harman Bhamra

In this article, we are going to talk about 4 proven ways to stop hair loss so you can walk with full confidence once again.

Understanding Hair Loss

Hair loss or alopecia affects both men and women. It is, however, more common among men with about 40% experiencing noticeable balding by the age of 35.

The average adult head contains about 150,000 strands of hair and it’s considered normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day. So, don’t be alarmed if you find strands of hair on your hairbrush or on the floor.

Our hair is actually made up of dead keratin cells. As hair follicles produce new hair cells, old or dead keratin cells are pushed out through the skin’s surface --- this then becomes the hair that we can see. On average hair grows at a rate of approximately 6 inches every year.

Normally, 90% of the hair on a normal person’s scalp is growing. Hair growth follows a cycle with three distinct phases:

  • Anagen Phase - hair grows actively during this stage. This phase lasts around 2 - 8 years.
  • Catagen Phase - a transitional stage that lasts between 2 - 3 weeks.
  • Telogen Phase - a resting stage that lasts about 2 - 3 months. At the end of this phase, the old hair falls out and the cycle returns to the anagen phase.

Hair loss is affected by age, genes, hormones, stress, certain drugs, burns, x-rays, injuries, cosmetic procedures, diet, autoimmune diseases, and certain medical conditions like diabetes, anaemia, lupus, and iron deficiency.

For more information, here’s a more detailed article that explains the causes of hair loss.

4 proven ways to stop hair loss

1. Consider having a hair transplant

This option is perfect for those who have already suffered significant hair loss. Don’t worry - you don’t have to replace all 100,000 strands of hair. In fact, only 25,000 strands of hair are needed to give the appearance of a relatively complete hair.

Hair transplants are done by taking hair follicles that are resistant to DHT from the back and sides of your head. Doctors then graft these portions on to the balding area of the scalp. Modern procedures involve using hair stem cells to stimulate regrowth of healthy hair in the “donor” area of your head. This allows for repeated transplants if needed.

2. Try changing your lifestyle

Do you know that stress is a major factor that affects hair loss? Changes in lifestyle can help prevent or slow down hair loss. Here are some of the things that you can do.

  • Reduce stress by getting more sleep, drinking plenty of water, and reducing your hours at work.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet.
  • Eat protein-rich foods regularly. Remember that keratin which makes up your hair is a type of protein so supplementing your diet with healthy protein can do wonders to your hair.
  • Get enough vitamins and minerals. You can easily get vitamins B3, B5, B9, and E from orange, fish, soya beans, spinach, and broccoli. For minerals, a healthy quantity of Zinc (dairy, egg yolk, and wheat), magnesium (tuna, banana, and milk), and iron (fish, beans, and leafy greens) is a must.

3. Use hair-friendly products

Hair products like gels may contain chemicals that could get trapped in the follicles --- preventing your hair from growing. If you are starting to see signs of hair loss, stop using gels and try more natural or organic styling products.

You can also opt for shampoos that combat DHT. Studies show that DHT is one of the main culprits of hair loss. Anti-DHT shampoos contain ketoconazole which prevents the conversion of testosterone into DHT.

4. Use hair loss medications

Hair loss medications like finasteride are proven to be effective in preventing or slowing down hair loss. Express Pharmacy stocks two hair loss drugs that you can buy online and get delivered right to your doorstep.


Propecia contains finasteride as its active ingredient. This hair loss drug is used to treat male pattern baldness on the vertex and anterior mid-scalp areas. Propecia is a constant treatment. This means that you have to take one pill a day on an ongoing basis.

Studies show that men who are taking Propecia stop losing hair within 3 to 6 months of treatment. 90% of men noticed visible improvements in their condition over 5 years of taking the tablet.


Finasteride is the generic counterpart of Propecia. This hair loss treatment has the same medical composition as its branded counterpart and is perfect for treating male pattern baldness. This hair loss drug should not be used by children and women.

Same as Propecia, you have to take one tablet of generic Finasteride every day. You should start seeing improvements within six months of use.

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When to Take the Morning After Pill

Posted Wednesday 26 August 2020 12:00 by in Emergency Contraception by Harman Bhamra

Do you know when to take the morning after pill in order to maximize its effectiveness?

The morning after pill is an effective emergency contraceptive that’s designed to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Studies show that 20% or 1 in every 5 women in the country between ages 18 and 35 take the morning after pill at least once every year.

The morning after pill should not be used as a regular contraceptive. Being an emergency contraceptive, it should only be taken if the sex was unprotected or if your contraception failed (e.g. you missed your pill, split condom, etc.).

When is the right time to take the morning after pill?

Express Pharmacy stocks three types of morning after pills. Namely: Levonelle, ellaOne, and Richter. All have different windows of effectiveness.


Levonelle is a type of emergency hormonal contraception. It was licensed in the UK in June 2004. Levonelle’s active ingredient, levonorgestrel, works by preventing your ovaries from releasing an egg. It also helps prevent the sperm from fertilizing any egg that may have been released by your ovaries prior to unprotected sex.

When to take Levonelle

Levonelle must be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected intercourse. Studies show that it’s most effective if taken within 12 hours of unprotected sex. If taken within 24 hours, Levonelle can stop up to 95% of unwanted pregnancies.

How to use Levonelle

Take one tablet of Levonelle orally within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse. Take a replacement dose if you vomited within 2 hours of taking the medication.


Another type of emergency hormonal contraception is ellaOne. This prescription-only medication has an active ingredient called ulipristal acetate which inhibits or delays ovulation. This means that your ovaries will not release an egg for the sperm to fertilize during unprotected sex.

When to take ellaOne

Like all emergency contraceptives, ellaOne is most effective when taken as early as possible. Studies show that ellaOne can be effective if taken within 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sexual intercourse.

How to use ellaOne

Take one tablet of ellaOne orally within 120 hours of unprotected sex. If vomiting occurs within 3 hours of taking the tablet, take another dose. You can take ellaOne with or without food.

We don’t recommend using ellaOne again within the same menstrual cycle. If you have an active sex life, make sure to use other forms of contraception until your next period.


Like the previous two, Richter is also an emergency hormonal contraceptive. It also contains levonorgestrel --- the same active ingredient as Levonelle. Richter works by preventing or delaying your ovulation. It also prevents pregnancy by keeping the sperm from fertilizing an egg that may have been released by your ovaries prior to unprotected intercourse.

When to take Richter

Like Levonelle, Richter must be taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse. The sooner, the better. This emergency contraception is known to prevent 84% of unwanted pregnancies if taken within its effectiveness window.

How to use Richter

Take one tablet of Richter orally within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Ideally, within the first 12 hours. If you vomited within 3 hours of taking this after morning pill, take another dose.

We don’t recommend using Richter as your regular contraceptive. Don’t take another dose of Richter until your next menstrual cycle. If you plan on having sex before your next period, make sure to use other forms contraceptives like a condom to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

Frequently asked questions about the morning after pill

Is the morning after pill safe?

Millions of people in the UK have taken a morning after pill at least once a year. There have been no reports of serious complications involving after morning pills so these drugs are generally safe.

Some common side effects of after morning pills include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Painful period

These side effects are usually mild and will go away on their own after some time.

Can I take the morning after pill regularly?

While taking the morning after pill as needed will not hurt you, we don’t recommend using it as your main contraceptive. Why? Because it’s not as effective as other forms of birth control and they are also more expensive than your regular pills.

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